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The aborted Quiet Streets trials did not cost Redbridge residents a penny, the council leader has confirmed.
At a virtual full council meeting on November 26, a discussion of the low-traffic neighbourhood experiment sparked fierce argument, with multiple councillors asked to withdraw comments.
Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal said the council was unable to consult on the scheme, introduced on September 14 and scrapped on October 16, due to deadlines set by the Government.
He said the council would be keen to introduce a similar scheme in future, with more detailed consultation beforehand, but only if it did not have to foot the bill itself.
He said: “This was a scheme promoted by the Government and rushed in by the Government and we had to adhere to strict time limits.
“We want to make sure that if we do bring (the scheme) back, it’s going to be something that we will do… with the full consultation period.
“It’s something we will look to in future, but not if we have to spend the money ourselves because we have so little money at the moment.”
He added that the Government had “forced (the council’s) hands” by setting a deadline of two to four months to use the TfL funding once it was allocated.
He also thanked council officers who “worked miracles” and submitted a successful cost claim for the abandoned scheme, meaning “it will not cost Redbridge taxpayers a penny”.
A number of Conservative councillors, who were heavily involved in the resident campaign to oppose the scheme, objected to Cllr Athwal’s statements.
Cllr Howard Berlin (Con, Fairlop) said: “I was appalled by the misinformation from certain councillors, who said Redbridge had to take this scheme.
“Havering Council said no, Redbridge Council could and should have said no.”
Cllr Berlin also objected to the decision to work with active transport charity Sustrans, arguing they “do great work but are not independent” and comparing it to involving Shell or BP.
Cllr Athwal responded: “We know it was not consulted on, we wanted to consult on it, but your Government said if you do take your time and you do consult on it, you won’t get further funding.
“The opposition have nothing to say, except if there’s a community-led campaign and then, whatever it is, they will jump on it.
“If the Tories want to chase votes, they can do that. They have been doing that for the last 6 years and it has not done them any good until now.”
Cllr Ruth Clark (Con, Fairlop), whose ward was inside the scheme, criticised the Labour party for failing to warn her that it was being put in place.
She said she had heard reports of seven traffic accidents caused by the scheme, one of which she witnessed on Cranbrook Road in which an elderly woman died.
Regarding this accident, she said: “It’s no good protesting to me that it had nothing to do with it. I was present and, in my opinion, it was a direct result of traffic build-up from the scheme.”
During the meeting, there was fierce disagreement over whether Labour Barkingside councillors Sachs, Noor and Garfield had done enough to support residents.
Cllr Anne Marie Sachs (Lab, Chadwell) said: “We listened carefully to what residents said and as a result myself, Cllr Noor and Cllr Garfield wrote to the leader and asked for the experimental period to be brought to an end early.”
Cllr Linda Huggett (Con, Monkhams) eventually withdrew her comment that the councillors had blocked residents’ emails, but said she would be forwarding evidence on to the legal department.